“the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” – Revelation 5.8From David King
What’s your vision of heaven? There was a time when the popular image was of angels sitting on clouds strumming harps. It was very serene, very quiet, very white and…
…very boring – at least to my teenage mind! Wonderfully, since then I have been shown much more of what the Bible says eternal life will be like beyond the grave. It is so vibrant and rich and, crucially, it involves food!
Having said that, when I was preparing my sermon for yesterday, I did come across harps in heaven. They are being played by the 24 elders. There is some debate as to whether the elders are human (less likely) or angelic (more likely), but that is not our concern today. Instead I want to share what I learnt from one commentator (Don Carson) about these harps. When we hear a harp mentioned, we think of an orchestral harp. They are incredible instruments. I once knew a harp builder and he told me that the total tension in the strings of a harp is over a ton. Wow.
But that isn’t what John saw. The harps John saw were the harps of Judah in the first century. They were much smaller instruments and their style of music was less serenely classical and more boisterous folk. They were instruments of joy, laughter and dance. As Carson says, they are the sort of instrument that, when you hear them, your toe starts a-tapping! In 2 Samuel 6.5 we read, “David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, tambourines, rattles and cymbals.” It sounds raucous and fun.
Carson goes on to say that the modern equivalent might be the banjo. Actually I suspect that it will be a whole range of instruments – some of which we have never seen before. I definitely want a ukulele somewhere there and the odd electric guitar or perhaps an old fashioned honkytonk piano.
Whatever instruments there might be, it sounds like a fun place.
And what causes this atmosphere, this exuberance, this joy? Revelation 5 tells us.
It is that Jesus is there…